State of the Union is a series curated by regional regulatory teams at Fyllo that recaps important cannabis regulatory activity across the U.S. This edition covers activity in April, May, June, and July 2021 across Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Idaho, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia.
Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill SB 46 into law that legalized medical cannabis on May 18th. The program, limited to edibles, oils, and topicals, is still considered a win by industry professionals and puts Alabama on the list as the 37th state to adopt a medical cannabis program. As of July 15th, all appointments have been made to the Medical Cannabis Commission, which will oversee the coming program.
A bill that aimed to, at a broad glance, set stricter rules for the medical marijuana program was introduced on May 14th and made its way quickly through the legislature. Although not without controversy, the bill was ultimately approved and was signed by Gov. Jared Polis on June 24th. The signed version of the bill includes restrictions to medical concentrates and tighter rules for doctors recommending medical cannabis – especially for patients 18-20, and more. As of July 1st, a lawsuit against the Governor has been filed, claiming that the bill violates the protections of medical cannabis patients under the Colorado constitution.
The Illinois legislature has been considering a bill to regulate CBD and Delta-8-THC products that would help combat deceptive/inaccurate labeling, unsafe production methods, and more. The House of Representatives passed the legislation in mid-April, and most recently, the bill has been referred to the Senate Assignment Committee.
Illinois HB 1443 sought to increase the number of marijuana dispensaries in the state, prioritizing social equity applicants. The legislation introduced back in February was approved by both the House and Senate, received Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature on July 15th, and became effective the same day. The legislation sets in motion three different lotteries scheduled for July 29th, August 5th, and August 19th, with the August 5th lottery held specifically for Social Equity Justice-Involved Applicants. Everything remains on track after a lawsuit that could have potentially delayed these lotteries was withdrawn.
On April 16, Gov. Brad Little signed the Hemp Research and Development Act (HB 126) and rounded out the last remaining state in the U.S. to legalize hemp. The bill aims to bring revenue and crop diversity to the agriculture industry but excludes retail stores and holds steadfast in the state’s prohibition of the sale of CBD containing any concentration of THC. Regulators plan to submit their Hemp Plan to the USDA in early August for approval.
In May, The Florida Supreme Court ruled that vertical integration for the medical cannabis industry will remain a requirement. After the long-awaited decision, the Florida Office Of Medical Marijuana Use announced a tentative application period to award possibly up to 19 licenses to meet the demands of the growing patient numbers.
A bill introduced in April which aimed to allow medical patients access to smokable flower in Louisiana made its way through the state’s legislature and was ultimately adopted and signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards. The legalization and taxation of raw cannabis will not go into effect until January 1st of the coming year, but activists have expressed gratitude that a more affordable option will soon be available on dispensary shelves.
April 9th, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission approved regulations that allowed edibles to be manufactured and sold under the state’s medical program. These regulations also adopted updated packaging and labeling regulations requiring several health and safety statements and a newly required universal symbol. As of July 18th, all products must comply with the updated packaging and labeling requirements.
The Cannabis Control Commission issued the first delivery license to a Social Equity Program Participant and Veteran-Owned Microbusiness on May 28th. The same day, the CCC also released a Delivery FAQ sheet that aims to answer common questions for others interested in the delivery license.
A federal judge blocked Detroit, Michigan officials from processing recreational cannabis business license applications in mid-April. The halt was due to a dispute regarding the City’s marijuana ordinance and residency language for marijuana business applicants. Mayor Mike Duggan explained that the ordinance was crafted in efforts to give longtime residents priority – consistent with the state’s law – but was ultimately found to be an “unfair, irrational, and likely unconstitutional advantage” by Federal Judge Bernard A. Freidman in June. Detroit city officials are now back to the beginning stages of crafting a new recreational licensing ordinance.
Mississippi Initiative 65 was a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative that was overturned by the State Supreme Court in May. The decision to overturn the measure was made because of a technicality requiring signatures from five congressional districts to be placed on a ballot, but with Mississippi’s stagnant population, the districts have dropped from five to four. Since then, lawmakers have been in frequent talks about passing legislation that would legalize a medical market. Currently, a special session is rumored for early August.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed legislation June 4th that will allow two new cannabis license types in the state, both types of consumption lounges. Although the new licenses will not be available until early to mid-2022, industry excitement stirs around the possibility of up to 40 new licensing opportunities, with 10 of those prioritized for social equity applicants.
New Mexico became the 17th state to legalize an adult-use recreational market with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s signature to make it official on April 12th. Since then, regulators have been busy drafting rules for recreational growers and producers. Regulators are expected to begin accepting applications on September 1st or earlier, if possible.
New York local legalization meetings have begun- a flurry of jurisdictions have begun discussions regarding their decision in response to language in the bill that localities may opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law before Dec. 31, 2021. Although things are moving locally, state regulators seem to be delayed in establishing the adult-use regulatory authority that will oversee the market. These delays have prompted the introduction of a bill that would allow cultivators provisional licensing (if rules are not in place by January 1) to begin growing cannabis.
A North Carolina bill that would legalize a modest medical program has been approved by two Senate committees – Judiciary and Finance. Some activists have expressed concern with dispensary limits and other parts of the bill, but the issue remains historic, as this is the first time any cannabis legislature has advanced in the state’s legislative session. The bill now heads to the Senate Committee on Health Care.
Ohio has multiple roads to adult-use legalization at the current moment. Back in April, lawmakers announced their intent to introduce legislation that would legalize an adult-use market while also putting social equity at the forefront of the proposal. As of July 30th, the legislation was formally introduced. Separately, an activist group in Ohio has submitted language to the Attorney General for an adult-use statutory proposal. The summary language needs to be approved and signatures collected before the legislature will consider the proposal.
A South Carolina bill (HB 3174) that would have legalized a medical cannabis program where vertical integration would be required, was at first expected to see a vote in April but was not called for a vote before the session ended on May 13th. Lawmakers have promised to pick the legislation back up in the 2022 session.
Gov. Ralph Northam’s official amendments to the legalization bill- which included legalizing possession by July 2021 instead of 2024, were accepted by the legislature on April 7 and became official the same day. Northam ceremoniously signed the bill later that same month. Although Virginians will have to wait until 2024 for an operational market, the first southern state to legalize adult-use cannabis will likely have an unmistakable domino effect on the rest of the southern states.
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